Saturday, July 09, 2005
The July issue of the Italian photography magazine, Private, is about Iranian contemporary photography. To my surprise it didn't have anything from photographers like Shirin Neshat (who are famous not for their talents but for their connections to the New York art business) or Abbas Kiarostami (who is famous for his movies but somehow managed to become famous for his photographs as well).
"I Awake in Your Eyes" (the name of this issue of Private) is a fine selection of contemporary Iranian photography. Many of the photographs in this collection are by artists I know to be genuine representatives of Iranian photography. I once mentioned some of them in a link here in this weblog, and I even chose a picture for the post that is also published in the first page of "I Awake in Your Eyes". It seems my taste is very similar to that of the photo editor of this magazine.
Iranian photography flourished after the revolution. Compared to Iranian painting, theater, and even cinema, Iranian photography is far better in its artistic quality. It reflects more of what is going on in that surreal republic, and at the same time it doesn't exoticize the culture for the "Western" eye. Despite the media's realistic nature, Iranian photography is very much based on metaphors, a characteristic that connects it to an older tradition of poetry. At the same time the fact that for years photography has not been taken seriously as an "art" form in Iran gives it the opportunity to get rid of what Iranians call "Ostaad" or "Masters": a bunch of useless obsolete "experts" in different art fields who don't know anything about anything but are the ones who have the last words in everything.
The only art field that can compete with photography in Iran is graphic design. Iran has developed a very unique style in graphic design that has not gotten the international attention it deserves. The reasons for the obscurity of both Iranian photography and graphic design are not clear to me, especially at a time when the worst Iranian movies get so much attention in Europe and the US. I hope that publication of collections like the latest issue of Private will be a beginning for their introduction to the outside world.
* This issue of Private is published both in English/Persian and Italian/Persian.
- The above photograph: "Présence Pure" ("Hozoor-é Nâb" in Persian) is by Kourosh Adim.
- The photograph below is by Mehran Mohajer, 2001.